Perpetual mourning and Erfan (Sufism)[i] have destroyed the Iranian character
Couple of recent blogs in the Persian language section crystallised the biggest shortcomings of the Iranian culture that we have not had the moral courage to correct. Since the desire to advance and modernise Iran became a movement in the country over a century and a half ago, in the ensuing rush to modernise the necessary cultural changes did not follow. Different attempts have been made but these have been individualistic[ii] therefore disjointed. The heavy emphasis of the education system to train technocrats, doctors, engineers and scientists at the expense of other disciplines left out critical thought.
This is not a treatise on Erfan or the philosophy behind it but the (harmful) effects. In almost a century ago the “Sufi Castigator”[iii] Kasravi in a heated angry[iv] (at times almost incoherent to the novice) essay on Hafez lambasted poetry and the inherent defeatism of Sufi thought. It is not until the reader gets past the Iranian prejudicial ingrained love of Hafez that his eyes are opened to pernicious opioid effect of Erfan and the use of mysticism as a propaganda tool. It has debilitated the Iranian nation spiritually.
It goes hand in hand with the addiction to what can only be called perpetual mourning. We actually get off on a good cry. The overblown treatment of death which is a natural certainty, is just another reason for self-pity and obligatory display of often insincere grief but a good excuse for a good cry. It has become ingrained in us to the extent it’s defended as tradition.
Unless you have the balls to proverbially kick yourself up the backside and fight the habitual urge to immerse yourself in grief, you are just perpetuating the worst of our culture. It seems as modernists increasingly facilitated education, we increasingly clung to our worst traditions and traits. Tarof is not good manners but insincere and exaggerated lies. Perpetual mourning is wrong. Together with propagation of the morbid love for (constant) martyrdom they are tools of exploitation.
Lasting political change to rid Iran of this regime and the clergy’s destructive opposition to modernity will not occur without serious changes in our culture. The awakening that modernists have craved cannot merely be political but it must be cultural as well.
[i] In this blog the two terms are interchangeable.
[ii] To name but a few of these individuals Jamalzadeh (Kholghiat), Kasravi (too many works to name), Dashti (23 Years and the much less well known albeit very interesting castigation of Sufism Pardeh ye Pendar, Hedayat and Forough (Ossian and other works).
[iii] Castigation of the Sufi’s is a key theme of the modernist movement in Iran never fully developed. There is a lot more to be said this subject for future blogs.
[iv] Resulting in his movement to burn what he considered as harmful texts which was a mistake detracting from the change he was trying to make.